How to fight a traffic ticket

Everyone hates getting a ticket, but the fine often isn’t the worst part: your insurance rates can skyrocket and you can get demerit points too. Luckily you can fight back—here’s how.



From the Dec/Jan 2010 issue of the magazine.


1. Good evening, officer
When you’re pulled over by a police officer, don’t jump into explanations—they could be used against you in court. Be polite and keep a low profile, advises Russ Stallberg, a ex-postal union grievance officer who runs the site “If you stand out in their minds, they’ll take extensive notes,” he warns. When the officer is gone, take detailed notes of your own.

2. Your options
The process varies by jurisdiction, but generally you have three options: you can pay the fine and plead guilty, you can plead guilty with explanation, or you can ask for a trial. If you’ve had tickets before, find out if the new ticket will mean losing your license or a huge jump in your insurance premiums (don’t call your insurance company, run scenarios at If that’s the case, you may want to go to court to fight it.

3. The plea bargain
If the fine is the only issue, your best bet is to plead guilty with explanation. You’ll meet the prosecutor, who can reduce the fine and demerit points—even reduce the violation to a lesser charge. You don’t need a great excuse. “I told him I’d learned my lesson and I know that speeding causes accidents,” says Joseph Nguyen of Maple, Ont. “He reduced the fine and the demerit points.”

4. Preparing for trial
If you have to fight the ticket in court, consider hiring a paralegal to represent you. If you decide to go it alone, do your research by sitting in on some traffic ticket trials or visiting a free legal clinic. Don’t count on a cop not showing up for trial—in some jurisdictions, they get paid overtime to attend. To prepare your legal arguments, ask the prosecutor’s office for the police officer’s notes and other details of the case.

5. The trial
Common arguments involve casting doubt on the officer’s story. Defendants often argue that the speed measuring unit wasn’t used properly, or their view of a stop sign was obstructed. In a trial last year, when Nguyen faced a charge for playing his music too loud, the cop recalled that he pulled over a red Honda Civic. “I drive a Toyota Celica,” smiles Nguyen. “Because the officer made a false claim, the case was dropped.”

53 comments on “How to fight a traffic ticket

  1. How many cops does it take to issue a ticket?????

    In the picture.. there are two???

    Effective utilization of resources seems to be overlooked too often any more.

    The other officer could be utilized more effectively elsewhere!!!!!

    Not critical of the people on the job but rather the excessive costs for police
    budgets today. Something has to be done to reduce not increase costs!!!!

    • The police actually make money from traffic violations, there is no income involved in a homicide investigation. So unfortunately we have to grin and bear the traffic tickets so that the police continue to exist to handle the important stuff

      • Like I said in one of my previous posts "People have many misconceptions about speeding tickets", and your above comment is, in my opinion, one of those.

        Money from the fines does not directly go to the Police Force that gave you the ticket. If you read the fine, it is payable to the Ministry of Transportation/or whatever service your province uses.
        A percentage of the fine also goes into a fund for victims of crime. This is paid out by the government to different organizations that help victims of crime, wether it be financially or other.
        You admit in one of your posts that, it's not the first time you have been caught speeding. That's exactly why Police are on the road. Safety

        • Actually in Ontario the fines go to the Municipality in which you were charged. That's where all POA fines go in the Province of Ontario unless the Municipality is the party charged (then it goes to the Province). The Victim Surcharge goes to the province.

          • Thanks for the correction "Current LEO", that is what I was looking to say! It's been a while. LOL

        • Did not mean any disrespect, and thank you for the clarification. The point I was trying to make was that it is a revenue stream. If not directly for the police it is still a revenue stream that would be missed if it were not there.


    • It is a good thing that there are two cops. I believe cops should always be in pairs, for safety.
      When a car is pulled over, it could be a dangerous criminal driving it.
      It is known that criminals, convicts, and people wanted by police have been captured because the vehicle they were driving was pulled over for a minor reason.
      Every patrol car chould have two officers in it. It is a price worth paying, for the safety of the police officers, who risk their lives for our safety.

    • Joe… you do understand that the picture is just a stock-photo… not an actual picture of an event… right?

  2. Late spring I was pulled over on the 401 out towards London in speed trap with one officer on an overpass and other officers in cruisers pulling over the cars (very US state Trooper). The traffic was moving really quickly but none the less they chose me to pull over. The ticket stated I was doing 144km/h in a 100km/hr zone. As I was moving with traffic I can admit to nothing as I was not watching my speedometer that closely (lesson learned).

    My point after that explanation is that this is a fairly major ticket, only 6km shy of counting as racing wihich would have had the car seized. I went to a parralegal for two reasons, my success defending myself personaly has not gone to well in the past, and I live about 3hrs from where the court case would have been. The parallegals were able to prepare properly, review all the paper work and appear on my behalf in court. Long and short was that the ticket issuing officers did not have all the details recorded properly, and I doubt I would have been savey enough to realize it. I do not encourage speeding or reckless driving. I do however recommend getting the proper legal help to defend yourself.

  3. We should be very happy to know there are people POLICE out there looking after us. To many times we read about speeding drinking and driving, shooting up in neighbourd and all of the other crap that we don'want.Give the PROTECTORS A BREAK; Let us start to try and smarten up our own and put our knowledge to the ones who's playing ignorant to the laws.Quit siding with the WRONG and stand up for the RIGHT.YOU MUST PAY TO LEARN SOMETIMES.

  4. From the prospective of a former Peace Officer, I can honestly say that I have almost heard every excuse in the book.
    Police officers are just doing their jobs and there are many misconceptions about speeding tickets.

    Here are a couple of other tips that could help you when facing a ticket:
    1. Don't get out of your car! Stay in your car until the officer approaches your vehicle.
    2. If you don't feel comfortable pulling over, or the area you are in is not safe, put on your "hazard lights" (this will let the officer know that you are aware that he is behind you), and pull over to a safer area (prefferably a parking lot or an area away from immediate traffic.)
    I hope this helps.

  5. 3. Get your documents ready! In Ontario you will need to show your Driver's licence, proof of valid insurance, and vehicle registration. Be aware that you have to sign your vehicle registration! You would not believe how many people forget to sign the vehicle registration (this can also be another fine).
    4. Let the officer ask you the questions! Don't give the officer any information that he could use against you in court.
    5. If you are honest answering the officers questions, before he/she returns to their vehicle, ask the officer if there is anyway they can reduce your ticket so you don't get any demerit points. Most officers understand that everybody has bills to pay and the last thing that you need, besides a fine, is for your insurance rates to go up (The officer can reduce the fine to a lower amount, which would negate the need for you to attend court).

  6. Another word to the wise is that if you are pulled over for speeding and the officer says you were going 90kms in an 80 kms zone and you way..I was at the most going 85kms..When you get to court.. the judge will always say.. well the posted speed was 80km.. so in fact you were speeding by your own admission.. pay your fine.

  7. I got pulled over on the 401 (132 in a 100) i got a paralegal to help defend me because I would have been considered a reckless driver to my insurance company due to the demerit points I got! The place I went did absolutly NOTHING for me…I paid over 400$ to get them to help me, they missed 2 of my court dates, claiming they got side tracked and it "slipped" their mind, and proceeded to tell me when they called that I should be thankful they even called me to tell me what was going on, cause some places wouldnt! well let me tell you, if a client of mine is paying 400$ for me to help them with something…they'd be getting phone calls all the time, and i would never miss the date of which my deadline was! also, the paper I had to sign to re-open the case NEVER got delivered to the court…I then got charged with the traffic offense and then they asked me for another 90$ because they did the best they could!

    • Sorry to hear about your experience. Most traffic ticket paralegals, will not charge you unless they manage to reduce some or all the charges.
      You can however, take the "paralegal" company that you hired to Small Claims Court for failure to provide a service.
      It's not expensive, and you do not need a lawyer for Small Claims Court. This will allow you to at least get your money back from them (with interest and court costs).

      • Also, unless you are charged with a serious offence, you do not need to hire a paralegal or other service to fight a speeding ticket. Judges are very understandable in traffic court, and have to give your testimony the benifit of the doubt.
        The advantages of hiring a paralegal are: 1. You don't have to miss a day off work (Which usually costs more than the actual ticket.) 2. The paralegal's are experienced in dealing with traffic fines and can sometimes find details that the officer might have overlooked, and your case can be "tossed". 3. Most of the paralegal companies have a "guarantee" that you will not have to pay them unless they manage to reduce the charges.
        The disadvantages: 1. If the paralegal wins the case, you could end up having to pay them just as much as the original fine was (But you save on the insurance rates going up for the next 3-5 years)

        • thank you, i appreciate what you've just said…the small claims court sounds interesting…i'm going to look into it!

  8. In my opinion the best way to fight a ticket if you want to go down that road is to do it YOURSELF! It's a waist of time and money to go to a paralegal…I will NEVER again in my life go to a paralegal nore will I recommend it to anyone else. Do your research and represent yourself…having someone else represent you in this situation could end up cause ALOT of trouble down the road…TRUST ME!

    • How about just don't break the law?

      I'm in court all the time and see many very good paralegals doing a great job for their clients. Your one bad experience does not mean a whole industry is bad. But hey I see a pattern with you, you break the law and want to get out of it, the paralegals are no good, always someone other than yourself to blame. By the way it's "waste" and "nor".

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  10. wow…you have no idea who i am…and after one comment you see a pattern? how is that possible??
    i know i broke the law and i understand that…and i was willing to just pay the fine and deal with the consequences, but an officer im friends with told me to go through a paralegal…and ya this one experience did RUIN it for me! and thank you for the english lesson…much appreciated!

  11. I am a seventy five year old lady and have in the past and up until to-day driven all over Canada, also I started driving when I was 14 as we lived in the country.
    There is no excuse in my opinion to be getting tickets for speading or drinking and driving, and no I do not drive slowely
    like a lot of you will be thinking i do go the speed listed that is posted be it in towns, cities, or on the hyways.
    To this day I have never been stopped for any infraction of the Hyway traffic act, if a person obeys the
    law they would not be worrying about paying fines, orcausing accidents because of their actions, thank God
    we have the Police on the roads watching for the law breakers on them.

  12. It’s always funny to read posts like these about people having opinions on the police. It’s always never “oh I didn’t do it” it’s “how do I get off this”. So you never deny that you were speeding, that you were drinking and driving, that you assaulted someone. But instead you are always going after the officer asking if the notes are right, calibration with the various machines are right ect. I am more likely to let someone off a ticket that when I pull them over they say “ya I am so sorry blah blah blah” and stand up and be a man (or woman). But it’s so funny that you sit here and bash the police but yet the second someone puts a scratch on your car, someone is harassing you, or someone breaks into your home with a knife who do you rush to the phone for help???? Of course it’s the police.

  13. That is the job driving as fast as I can to get to your house to hopefully save you or catch someone that has done you wrong and put myself in harms way to help you, it’s what I signed up for, it’s what I love to do and you know what along the way if I see something that warrants a ticket a person gets that too. How about instead of bashing police every chance you get you actually thank them for working weekends, holidays and over their kids birthdays to try and make the city a little bit safer for you and your family.

    • Well said. We have become a society of 'I'm good as long as I dont get caught".
      I agree stand up and be a man/woman, you want to speed and take the risk of possibly ruining someone elses life!! just so you can play cry baby afterwords if you get caught, shame! toddlers in school know better.

  14. I appreciate everything cops do, they put their own lives on the line for us every day! never bashed a cop in my comment, i bashed the company that was apparently "helping" me.

    • Like you said help yourself, dont use them.
      Help yourself further dont speed…….

  15. I have a question! if the speed limit indicates 100km/h, (for instance), what is the maximum high I can drive without getting a ticket?
    Thank you!

    • You should always drive at the posted speed limit. Some communities have safety zones where because of the proximity of schools and parks; in these areas speed enforcement is very strict and fines can double. In some jurisdictions, highway enforcement can vary slightly; sometimes with good road conditions and if traffic is moving well police may allow the flow to exceed the posted limit (say 110km/h in a 100km/h zone) In that case do not travel less than the posted limit or exceed the general flow, you will be pulled over either way.

  16. The Autobahn in Germany, with it's unlimited speed limits, is statistically the safest highway in the world, did you know that? how do you explain it?

    • it's not all unlimited.

    • Uhhh…. only some sections are unlimited. Germany and Austria limit at 130km/h.

  17. I have a simple suggestion, If speeding costs lives (and there are certainly many cases of automotive accidents that can be sighted to prove it) then install speed limiters on every car in north america, or at the very least make it mandatory to be incorporated into every new car. We did it with seat belts, car seats, air bags.

    Let me ask the Police officers who have responded on this thread, wouldn't it be ideal if no one were able to drive faster than say 120kph, there would really be no more high speed highway chases, infact you would never have to set up another speed trap on a 400 series highway!

    Oh the manufacturers wouldn't like it. How could you get anyone to shell out the money for a Hemi V8, or those 300+ horsepower "family" cars if they wouldn't be able to go any faster than a $2,000 used minivan!!!!!!

    I would really like to see the posts in response to this one!

    • Your right and we would be able to lay of about 2500 OPP because there would be no need for them, as nobody would be able to speed good idea……think of all the tax dollars we would save

    • I fully agree. We have proven as a society that if given the option, some of us will break the law. I drive all day for my job and it is unbelievable how bad some drivers are. Vehicles speeds should be limited. They put a big steel door on the bank so nobody steals the money, they put locks on the stores so nobody walks off with the merchandise, and they even put a keyed ignition system in your car so nobody can break the law and take it. These are all done as deterrents to stop people from having the option to break the law yet with vehicles we leave it all up to the driver. I think the most complaining would come from the law breakers themselves as the people obeying the rules couldn't care less that their car won't do 200km/hr any more. Since they obey the laws all that extra power is just a waste. You don't buy a bus to drive your kids to school, you don't buy 50 cartons of milk when we go to the store and why, because it would just be a waste so why build cars that do 2 – 3 times the speed limit?

  18. If the speed limit is 100km/h than 100km/h is the fastest you can go without a ticket. The bottom line here is many of us speed, when it happens we are breaking the law and shouldn't whine about the consequences. Police do a service for all of us and we should be appreciative of the fact that they are out there. They don’t need to be put on a pedestal for doing the job they signed up for, it’s not like they are volunteering as police, they are paid to do their job just like the rest of us but it is a tough job that has a positive impact on our society so at the very least we should respect the job they are doing. Many people like to bash the police and it is a fact that police are not always right, they make mistakes and are all human beings full of faults and emotions. There are some people out there that should not be police but I feel it is safe to say that those people would be the exception and not the rule. I am sure you could find an idiot in every field but that does not mean we should paint them all with the same brush.

  19. I have dealt with many police through the years with my job and have found most of them to be understanding, helpful and a pleasure to talk to. I think the bottom line is that we all know the laws for driving; we learned them when we did the test. If you don’t want to follow the rules stay off the roads or just stop trying to blame someone else for your behavior, it’s entirely your fault if you are doing something wrong. The funny thing is that if you got caught speeding you probably do it all the time, when you count the number of trips you took on the road when you broke the speed limits and put them up against the number of times you got caught you are probably well ahead of the game.

  20. You are right Doug that things average out, but I will say that I use my cruise control more and more and try to be very careful with my speed. But at times thinns are just flowing and when you are on a 1300km trip which I make with some regularity 120kph cuts 2hrs off the comute and that is tempting (right or wrong it is what it is).

    What I am maintaining is that if 100 is the law, there is no need for cars to have the capacity to do in excess of 200.

  21. My brother once disputed a speeding ticket and almost won. He'd gone on about how the radar guns need to be calibrated and tried to claim the gun used on him was not calibrated properly.

    The officer approached him after the trial and told him he almost won his case had he thought to ask one critical question. Apparently the radar guns need to be calibrated every so many months (forget the exact number) and my brother had simply asked in the trial when the officer's radar equipment had last been calibrated. Had he asked the officer to produce the certificate confirming the last calibration of his radar gun, he would have won because the officer forgot to bring it with him.

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